September 25th, 2013
11:29 AM ET

'Every Day in Cambodia'

Hollywood star and human rights activist Mira Sorvino joins CNN in Cambodia where sex trafficking is still rife and pedophiles staying in nice hotels want virgin girls.

Sorvino walks through a poverty-wracked town where some residents are known to have sold their children, and meets with the law enforcement team that wants to crack down on the trafficking gangs.

She is shown around by Don Brewster, a local activist who has dedicated his life to saving Cambodia's children.

Watch the trailer above for CNN's "Every Day in Cambodia."

September 18th, 2013
01:09 PM ET

Exploited boys are too often failed

Editor’s Note: Steven Procopio is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. He helps male victims of childhood abuse including a focus on public health, HIV, and homelessness. He is also is a faculty adviser at the Boston University School of Social Work macro practice department.

I recently met with a 15-year-old named Brian - his name has been changed to protect his identity - who had a family history of domestic violence and drug abuse. He also had a desperate need for money - money that he planned to use to escape his abusive home.  He found his opportunity online. Brian learned that he could make money selling “Skype sex."

Desperate and in need, Brian started to sell his underage body on the Internet and fell victim to the seedy industry that is the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).

Buyers usually resort to manipulation of their vulnerable victims with grooming activities such as purchasing clothing, cell phones, gifts, and other products as a way of seducing them into a relationship.

Often, these manipulative activities give the impression to the victim that they are "loved" and "cared for” in ways their biological families may not have been able to demonstrate. This manipulation often keeps victims in the industry for many years.

Brian’s parents eventually found out about his online activity, and instead of disapproving and finding a way to protect him from this exploitation, they feared it was indicative of their son’s sexual orientation, which they did not accept, and kicked him out of his home. FULL POST

Legal prostitution condones humiliation of women
Legalizing prostitution is not working, says Lauren Hersh of Equality Now
September 2nd, 2013
09:09 AM ET

Legal prostitution condones humiliation of women

By Lauren Hersh, Special for CNN
Editor’s note: Lauren Hersh is New York Director of Equality Now and head of its Sex Trafficking program combatting violence against women and girls. She is a former prosecutor at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office which covers Brooklyn.

Misguided attempts to reduce stigma through legalization mean governments benefit financially from sex trafficking at the expense of people in prostitution.

My friend Rachel Moran describes in her book, “Paid For,” how she was taken into state custody at 14 and within a year, was homeless, hungry and vulnerable. Her lack of choice fed her into the belly of prostitution. For the next seven years, she lived through repeated rapes from buyers and relentless violence. But physical harm and exploitation were not all she endured.

For Rachel and countless survivors worldwide, societal stigma is a concept that they have faced all too often. It arises because society dehumanizes people in prostitution, treating them as second class citizens at best.

Stigma prevents prostituted people from accessing adequate health care and places them at higher risk of violence by abusers who often act with impunity. FULL POST

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Topics: Life In Slavery
August 9th, 2013
10:48 AM ET

Slave maids cost the price of a smart phone

Editor’s Note: Susan Ople is founder and president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, a Philippine non-profit organization dedicated to helping distressed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) with labor and migration issues. The center also provides free legal help to human trafficking survivors, and other free reintegration services. She was named as a U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Hero of 2013.

By Susan V. Ople, Special for CNN

If you ask young people what they could get for U.S. $200 or less, their answers would probably include a tablet, a smart phone, or a designer bag. Not on the list, a foreign maid - unless you live in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, or any country in the Middle East.

In the United States, maids are for the rich and famous. Modern-day slavery in the western world commonly wears the face of a prostitute, a trafficked child, or an illegal migrant exploited by his or her employer. For third world countries, human slavery often has the face of a domestic worker isolated from society and kept invisible inside private homes of their employers.

As an advocate for migrant workers’ rights, I have seen slavery up close. It has many faces: a jealous female employer, sexual predators, pimps, illegal recruiters, and corrupt officials. Common among them is the belief that a foreign domestic worker is a commodity to be used or sold, or both. FULL POST

August 8th, 2013
10:04 AM ET

Rescued children shouldn’t be in handcuffs

Editor’s note: Francesca L. Garrett is a long-time victim’s advocate and Executive Director of the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio.

By Francesca Garrett, Special for CNN

The girl on the news is wearing pink flip flops.  An oversized plaid shirt hides a figure that has barely begun to develop. According to the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, as a minor who has been forced to perform a sexual act for money she is a victim of sex trafficking. Yet under prostitution statutes in most states she has also committed a criminal offense - and now she is in handcuffs.

About three-quarters of  the children rescued last week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation through Operation Cross Country VII live in states that afford them no legal protections from prostitution charges.

Some could face up to two years in juvenile detention, others, thousands of dollars in fines (pdf). Many may also be charged for possessing the cocktail of drugs that traffickers use to create dependency and compliance in the children they sell. And though the FBI is likely to afford special leniency to those rescued in the sting, without change, the same may not hold true for the children arrested on the streets in the coming months and years. FULL POST

July 30th, 2013
01:54 PM ET

FBI crackdown nabs pimps, rescues children

The FBI's latest crackdown on child prostitution revealed a dark underside of society growing through Internet sites that provide pimps easy access to johns in hotels, motels, at truck stops and just about anywhere else.

A U.S.-wide operation over the weekend resulted in 150 arrests, with 105 children between the ages of 13 and 17 rescued, according to Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division.

It was the largest such sweep to date, he said, with 28 searches and 129 seizures of cash, drugs, vehicles and firearms.

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Topics: In The News
Cyber-sex trafficking: A 21st century scourge
July 18th, 2013
10:48 AM ET

Cyber-sex trafficking: A 21st century scourge

Andrea was 14 years old the first time a voice over the Internet told her to take off her clothes.

"I was so embarrassed because I don't want others to see my private parts," she said. "The customer told me to remove my blouse and to show him my breasts."

She was in a home in Negros Oriental, a province known for its scenic beaches, tourism and diving. But she would know none of that beauty. Nor would she know the life she'd been promised.

Andrea, which is not her real name, said she had been lured away from her rural, mountain village in the Philippines by a cousin who said he would give her a well-paid job as a babysitter in the city. She thought she was leaving her impoverished life for an opportunity to earn money to finish high school. Instead, she became another victim caught up in the newest but no less sinister world of sexual exploitation - cyber-sex trafficking.

July 15th, 2013
10:30 AM ET

Fighting forced labor helps women beat poverty

By Guy Ryder, Special for CNN
Editor’s Note: Guy Ryder is the Director-General of the International Labour Organization. This week it is launching The Work in Freedom program, an initiative funded by the UK Department for International Development which aims to help 100,000 women and girls from Bangladesh, India and Nepal who are in forced labor in countries including Lebanon, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and India.

Across the planet, about one in every seven of us lives in extreme poverty, having to survive on less than $1.25 a day. Every day, they and the millions more living just above the poverty line struggle to have enough to eat, and dream of a better life and of earning enough to provide for their families.

Geeta Devi was one of these people. The 32 year-old mother of two from Nepal had been struggling to support her children and, like millions before her, made the difficult decision to leave her family behind in search of better work. Geeta, whose real name is being withheld to protect her safety, left her home believing she had secured a job through a local recruitment agency to work in a hospital in Lebanon.

When she arrived in Beirut, the man who collected her at the airport told her that she would actually be employed as a domestic worker in his house.

Geeta had used her meager savings to travel abroad and now had no money to fly home. And so she was forced to accept the job. What followed was an all too familiar story of exploitation – no wages, physical and psychological abuse, loss of contact with family and restriction of movement. FULL POST

July 11th, 2013
06:02 PM ET

Saudi princess charged with human trafficking

A woman identified as a Saudi Arabian princess has been accused of holding a domestic servant against her will at her condominium in Irvine, California.
Meshael Alayban, 42, faces one felony count of human trafficking. Court details released Thursday say Alayban is one of the wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud.

Child miners face death for tech
A young worker at one of the mineral mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
June 26th, 2013
07:51 PM ET

Child miners face death for tech

By Roger-Claude Liwanga, Special for CNN
Editor’s note: Roger-Claude Liwanga is a human rights lawyer from the Congo and visiting scholar at Boston University. He worked for The Carter Center as a legal consultant, where he developed a training module to train Congolese judges and prosecutors on the protection of children against trafficking for economic exploitation in the mines. He is also the co-founder and executive director of Promote Congo, and is currently directing and producing a short documentary, “Children of the Mines,” which will be launched shortly in Boston. He writes in his personal capacity.

While the world was celebrating the International Day Against Child Labor on June 12, children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were hard at work in the country’s artisanal mines. Out of two million people working in the DRC’s artisanal mines, 40 percent of them are children.

Six months ago, I met a boy I will call Lukoji in the mine washing site of Dilala near the DRC’s Kolwezi city.

When I first saw him, the seven-year- old was sifting and washing heterogenite, an ore rich in cobalt and copper minerals.  He told me: “I began working in the mines when I was five”. He works along with his two brothers who are 12 and 13 years old.

Lukoji only works in the afternoon because he goes to school in the morning. Unlike him, his siblings are school dropouts and work all day in the mine from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lukoji’s brothers abandoned school because their unemployed parents were unable to pay the school fees for all of Lukoji’s siblings.

Seventy-five percent of children surveyed in the DRC’s artisanal mines are dropouts. The DRC’s Constitution guarantees a free elementary education; but this constitutional provision is ineffective and there are almost no schools in many of the remote mining areas. FULL POST

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Topics: How to Help • Technology • Uncategorized
Black e-economy hiding traffickers' profits
June 26th, 2013
07:46 PM ET

Black e-economy hiding traffickers' profits

By Ernie Allen, Special for CNN
Editor’s note: Ernie Allen in the president and CEO of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, a global organization to protect children from sexual exploitation and abduction.

Human trafficking, including sex trafficking of children, is moving from the streets to the Internet.  Increasingly, the traffickers are also migrating to a new, unregulated, unbanked and largely anonymous Internet-based financial system.  For the traffickers, the appeal is obvious. This virtual economy offers them anonymity with little if any regulation or oversight. It is easy, low risk, and enormously profitable.

The issue is complex. The global payments market continues to evolve with the boom in e-commerce and mobile payments and alternative payment methods are being adopted.

In emerging economies mobile payments are becoming more prevalent because there are more mobile phones than bank accounts. Technology is changing the very nature of money and has prompted the creation of a new Internet-based financial system which has resulted in alternative payment methods and digital currencies being widely used today.

However, this new system is unregulated and has become a preferred venue for the sale of illicit drugs, weapons and for those who are involved in commercial child sexual exploitation. FULL POST

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Topics: Technology • Uncategorized
June 11th, 2013
06:56 PM ET

Victim's plea: Change New York law, charge the traffickers

Editor’s note: Lauren Hersh is New York Director of Equality Now and head of its Sex Trafficking program combatting violence against women and girls. She is a former prosecutor at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office which covers Brooklyn.

By Lauren Hersh, Special for CNN, New York

Three months ago, Ruth came into my life. Sixteen years and two weeks old, Ruth is spunky and smart.

She loves Hello Kitty and iced coffee, listens to Alicia Keys and spends days planning her Sweet 16 outfit. Ruth wants to build schools in Africa.  Her contagious smile lights up a room. But, for years, the smile I have come to love was hidden.

Ruth is not her real name. She is a sexually exploited child. At 12, after being raped by her mother’s boyfriend, she met an older man who promised to love and care for her. Instead, he brutally beat her, repeatedly raped her and sold her for sex more times than she could count.

There is a common misconception that girls like Ruth choose to enter prostitution. This could not be further from the truth. FULL POST

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Topics: How to Help • Solutions • Uncategorized
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